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Happy April! Here's A Brand-New 2023 NFL Mock Draft Now That Free Agency Has Mostly Played Out

There are still a few big names on the open market like Odell Beckham Jr., but for the most part, teams have set their rosters heading into the 2023 NFL Draft. Here's an updated mock of the first round. If you're interested in cross-referencing, check out the last one I did below.

1. Carolina Panthers (via Bears) - Bryce Young, QB, Alabama 

It’s really only about size for Bryce Young. The Panthers have such a strong coaching staff in place, a viable o-line and an exceptional roster. Whoever they draft should thrive. Just feels like Young has the best blend of polish, “it” factor and football IQ to make Carolina an immediate NFC contender. That’s right. Not just in the NFC South division. In the wide-open conference that is the NFC.

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2. Houston Texans - CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State

There’s some concern here that Stroud shares the agent of Deshaun Watson. I think that whole saga is far enough in the past where it wouldn’t preclude the Texans from selecting Stroud. My concern for Houston is Stroud may not thrive without an excellent receiving corps and all-world pass protection. The Texans are miles away from such status in both those areas. 

3. TRADE — Detroit Lions (via Cardinals) - Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

You still have Jared Goff in place as the perfect bridge option. One point I don't see many others bringing up: Once Ben Johnson leaves for a head coaching job (probably in 2024), Detroit’s ceiling on offense will cave in with Goff under center. That is, unless you have some all-world talent like Anthony Richardson waiting in the wings. Imagine Richardson with that Lions offensive line, running game, and the likes of Jameson Williams and Amon-Ra St. Brown to throw to. Toss in an additional weapon or two in the coming years, and Detroit would have a hell of a lot to be excited about.

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4. TRADE — Las Vegas Raiders (via Colts) - Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

The thinking here is that the cornerback-needy Cardinals are liable to take whomever isn’t chosen between Gonzalez and Devon Witherspoon after their mock trade-back to No. 6. Las Vegas badly needs a lockdown guy on the boundary. Indianapolis decides to move to No. 7 rather than reaching for Will Levis. Gonzalez is among the safest picks in this class and would help the Raiders’ pass rush get home.

5. Seattle Seahawks (via Broncos) - Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

I’d spend multiple draft assets on the front seven if I were Seattle. At the top here, though, Witherspoon is too special of a talent to let slide. I feel like it doesn’t often happen that a team has two excellent young players on either opposite edges or opposite corners. It’s usually a young gun and a vet who’s a little past his prime. In this instance, the Seahawks could get two legit studs on rookie deals at such a valuable position.

6. Arizona Cardinals (via Lions) - Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama

I’m thinking the Cards spring for a defensive back sometime on Day 2. With a need for a dynamic pass-rusher, they can’t really go wrong with Will Anderson. A very safe pick that’ll give Arizona’s fan base a new cornerstone to rally around.

7. Indianapolis Colts (via Raiders) - Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

I don’t think you’ll see Porter mocked this high anywhere else. He obviously has NFL lineage, he’s a prototypical athlete as an outside corner, and he’d be an instant starter for this no-name defensive backfield. Once I put quarterback out of mind among Indianapolis’ needs — BRING ON MINSHEW MANIA!! — I looked at their depth chart in the secondary and to be honest I have no fucking clue who any of the starters are aside from Kenny Moore II. Again, what’s this amazing roster Colts GM Chris Ballard has allegedly built? Stop dicking around and use the assets from this trade down to go get Lamar Jackson, man. Sorry Reggie Wayne.

8. Atlanta Falcons - Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech

For a team that can’t rush the passer and refuses to adequately address that area, Wilson is a bulldozer who wins on raw power a lot of the time. Once his technique catches up, it’s scary to think what he could do after drawing 58 QB pressures the past two seasons. Atlanta’s hypothetical d-line of Wilson, David Onyemata, Grady Jarrett and Calais Campbell is a hell of a hulking group.

9. Chicago Bears (via Panthers) - Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia

Thanks to the extra draft capital Chicago has from trading the No. 1 overall pick, I could see GM Ryan Poles helping his coach Matt Eberflus out with a blue-chip defensive lineman. Carter would be in the conversation as the first non-QB off the board if not for off-field concerns.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (via Saints) - Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia 

Plugging Smith into this Eagles defensive front is almost like having another faster, twitchier Haason Reddick in the mix. I don’t really know what to do with Philly. They’re so stacked everywhere. You could make compelling arguments for them to go in any direction with this pick other than quarterback. To me, Smith can play off-ball and be a sort of hybrid guy, and then take over on the edge in 2024 when Brandon Graham likely retires. There's also this…

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11. Tennessee Titans - Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

You stick the 6-foot-3, 208-pound Johnston on the outside, and you can let Treylon Burks play more in the slot role where he's more comfortable. Ryan Tannehill is playing for his career as he knows it in 2023. If Tennessee can use the rest of the draft to help build that o-line, perhaps this team can’t be buried just yet despite the perception they’re tearing it down to the studs.

12. Houston Texans (via Browns) - Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh 

With the 12th pick, Houston should go either BPA on the d-line or give its new signal-caller a legit wideout. In this instance, Kancey adds so much juice to a pretty uninspiring unit and would make life much easier for the Texans’ edge rushers.

13. New York Jets - Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern

Feel like I might’ve had Skoronski here before at least once. It makes sense. The Jets’ line is in flux, Plugging in Skoronski at either tackle or guard and placing Alijah Vera-Tucker literally wherever guarantees New York has a solid unit in place to protect Aaron Rodgers.

14. New England Patriots - Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma

Trent Brown has kicked over to the left side. I still feel like New England could go with someone like Harrison and either put him at right tackle or move Brown back there. Wide receiver is likely to be a popular position for the Pats to address here. However, their current group isn’t as barren of talent as years past despite the loss of Jakobi Meyers.

15. Green Bay Packers - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

Would it kill the Packers to draft a receiver who’s not super tall? They should make an exception here with a slot dynamo like Smith-Njigba. If only for the high comedy of finally going to the well at this position in Round 1 after refusing to while Rodgers was in town. Jordan Love sure would welcome this news with open arms.

16. Washington Commanders - Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland 

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This cornerback class is one of the best and deepest I can remember. That doesn’t mean teams should shy away from drafting the top guys on Day 1. Might as well double up if you want to. Banks is so damn fluid with his hips, has a great understanding of passing game concepts and can take calculated risks in jumping routes. His recovery speed very real, and with a 42-inch vertical, he can high-point the ball with the best of them.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State

If Pittsburgh really wants to roll with Dan Moore at left tackle, more power to them. I suspect with Paris Johnson Jr. still on the board here, the Steelers would pull the trigger to fortify Kenny Pickett’s blind side.

18. Detroit Lions - Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah

The more you watch Kincaid, the more mesmerized you become with his ball skills. He didn’t work out at the Combine or pro day while recovering from a back injury. Doesn’t seem super serious, and as is, the Lions could use a weapon like him after trading away T.J. Hockenson.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -  Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia

The Bucs released incumbent left tackle Donovan Smith. Tampa's need and caliber of prospect Jones is make this a logical match. Jones' athleticism stood out in game situations and popped at the Combine, where he ran a 4.97-second 40-yard dash at 311 pounds. Not that running 40 yards comes in handy for an o-lineman most of the time. Just goes to show this guy can get downhill in a hurry, is comfortable working in space and is not someone you want coming at you full speed ahead in the open field.

20. Seattle Seahawks - Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa

You could make a case for Will Levis here to develop behind Geno Smith. If I were Seattle, I’d wait until Round 2 and think about Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker instead. Van Ness registered 31 hurries on only 271 pass-rushing snaps in 2022, per PFF. Scary thing is, he’s only beginning to figure out the finer details. Not a massive arsenal of moves. Van Ness is predominantly going to be a speed-to-power (or just pure power) guy in the early going. It’d be intriguing to toss him into the Seahawks’ EDGE group with Boye Mafe and Uchenna Nwosu.

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21. Los Angeles Chargers - Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

I did a midseason mock draft and had Bijan going to the Bolts. Been moving him around some of late, but now that Austin Ekeler has asked for a trade, this is an easy choice for Chargers GM Tom Telesco if the Texas tailback is available. Give Justin Herbert a fucking problem like Bijan for defenses to deal with, and watch the Chargers challenge for the AFC title, regardless of how middling Brandon Staley’s defense is.

22. Baltimore Ravens - Jordan Addison, WR, USC

Baltimore’s offensive identity is going to transform overnight under new coordinator Todd Monken. It’d behoove the Ravens to acquire a route-runner like Addison who doubles as insurance for the oft-injured Rashod Bateman and brings competition to a receiving corps costarring the likes of Nelson Agholor and Devin Duvernay.

23. Minnesota Vikings - Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

Will Levis’ slide ends here. The Vikings should be in the market to raise their ceiling at quarterback from Kirk Cousins. When he had his most success at Kentucky in 2021, Levis had former Rams assistant/offensive coordinator Liam Coen as his play-caller. Minnesota head coach Kevin O’Connell comes from Sean McVay’s coaching tree. Pretty easy to connect the dots here.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars - Brian Branch, CB/S, Alabama

Even if he’s a pure slot guy only for the Jags, Branch is worth the late first-round investment. Darious Williams is more comfortable on the outside. He played 486 snaps in the slot last season, having only aligned there for 113 snaps in his career before then. Branch could unlock new levels to Jacksonville’s secondary with his sure tackling and knack for attacking the ball in the air.

25. New York Giants - Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson

I’m not fully buying the hype on Bresee like some others. That said, he’s a former elite recruit who’s had some hard injury luck and didn’t get an optimal chance to shine at Clemson. Classic "better as a pro than in college" guy who’d make the Giants’ 3-4 base front a challenge for opponents alongside former first-rounders Dexter Lawrence (from Clemson, too) and Leonard Williams.

26. Dallas Cowboys - Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

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Exit: Dalton Schultz. Enter: Michael Mayer. Dallas shouldn’t overthink this if the opportunity presents itself. Mayer is a fine blocker who won’t blow you away with athleticism but was nevertheless a prolific pass-catcher at Notre Dame, with 138 receptions across the last two years.

27. Buffalo Bills - Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

Jack Campbell was under strong consideration here to replace Tremaine Edmunds in the heart of the Bills’ defense. Instead, they go get another playmaker for Josh Allen. Flowers would allow Gabe Davis to flex into the "big slot" role more often and put defensive backs in serious conflict by using Flowers as a movable chess piece. He could even take some of those jet sweeps we saw from Isaiah McKenzie (18 carries, 101 yards, two TDs across 2021 and '22).

28. Cincinnati Bengals - Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State

Big hole for Cincinnati assuming Jonah Williams holds firm on his trade request. Or heck, if he's going to be a malcontent about moving to right tackle, bench him. Jones has the physical tools to fill in as an upgrade. He’s the Thanos Mind Stone in the Infinity Gauntlet final piece for the Bengals’ much-maligned offensive line. Bookending the protection in front of Joe Burrow with men mountains like Jones and Orlando Brown Jr. would make Cincy’s offseason an epic win.

29. New Orleans Saints (via 49ers) - Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee

You gotta grab a WR2 if you’re New Orleans with Michael Thomas’ status in perpetual doubt. Give Derek Carr a fighting chance. Pairing a route-running aficionado in Chris Olave with a pure deep threat like Hyatt would make the Saints’ passing game a lot more exciting.

30. Philadelphia Eagles - Mazi Smith, DL, Michigan

I can’t shake the possibility of putting two straight-up freakazoids like Jordan Davis and Mazi Smith together in Philly’s trenches. Hard to think of a team that develops defensive lines better than the Eagles have in recent years. Smith and Davis could make it flat-out impossible for opponents to run the ball with their blend of size and athleticism.

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31. Kansas City Chiefs - Adetomiwa Adebawore, EDGE, Northwestern

The inside-outside versatility is very real for Adebawore. Frank Clark was a no-brainer cut. KC could have 2022 first-rounder George Karlaftis on one edge, and Adebawore on the other side. Imagine obvious passing downs when the Chiefs could kick Adebawore inside next to Chris Jones. Then maybe you flex, say, Leo Chenal to the outside in an exotic, mixed-matched front? Holy shit that’d be tough to go against.

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok